Best is the standard

One of South Jersey’s most dominant high school programs, Moorestown girls lacrosse, has a new coach this spring. Neither the Quakers or Colleen Hancox has skipped a beat.

Colleen Hancox is in her first season as Moorestown’s head coach. The program has won 15 state championships since 2000. Hancox, a 2002 Moorestown graduate, played on three of those teams. (RYAN LAWRENCE, South Jersey Sports Weekly).

The numbers, compiled in the last 27 years, can’t help but come off as intimidating.

580 wins and just 46 losses and four ties.

16 state championships.

15 Tournament of Champions titles.

228 straight wins over in-state opponents from 2000 to 2010.

This was the legacy left behind by Deanna Knobloch (and her husband and assistant coach K.C. Knobloch) when she retired last fall as the head coach of Moorestown High School’s girls lacrosse program. The Quakers aren’t just the premier program in the state, they’ve also regularly been a national power, too.

Moorestown’s dominance against South Jersey opponents has continued over the last decade: They haven’t lost to a South Jersey foe since 2010.

Among all of those gaudy accomplishments, that last one was on the line recently on beautiful spring afternoon at Haddonfield Memorial High School, when the host Bulldawgs tied the game with 97 seconds remaining in regulation, had a chance to win in the final seconds, and pushed Moorestown in overtime, too.

“Today,” Rutgers-bound senior Janey Galski said afterward, “we showed what our team can do when we’re under pressure. I think all of us worked hard and had each other’s backs on and off the field.”

A thrilling, 8-7 sudden death win over Haddonfield was also a credit to the person who was hired to step into Knobloch’s role as the leader of the prestigious program: Moorestown first-year coach Colleen Hancox improved to 6-0 with the victory.

Despite an entirely new coaching staff and an unforgiving schedule, Moorestown’s girls lacrosse team was exactly where it’s always been for the majority of the last three decades: on top.

“She is always positive,” Galski said of Hancox, a 2002 Moorestown graduate and former star player who has coached both locally and internationally in the last 15 years. “She always knows what play we need and what play to call as we’re going. She’s awesome, she fit right in. She’s a great head coach and I’m lucky to be able to play for her for my senior season.”

Hancox on her first month as her alma mater’s coach: “This is really a love and a passion for me. I love coaching, I love being with young women who are at this age in high school, seeing them push through adversity and seeing them triumph as well.” (RYAN LAWRENCE, South Jersey Sports Weekly)

“She’s very real with us,” added senior goalie Logan Lillie, who will play next year at Northwestern University. “She’s going to tell us straight up what’s happening. And she’s not going to take any crap from us. Basically, the best.”

Hancox, who played at Moorestown and the College of William and Mary as Colleen Dalon, juggled her youngest daughter as the other fought for attention minutes after the Quakers escaped Haddonfield with a win.

“I love being with my girls, but these are also my girls now,” Hancox said of her first month leading her alma mater’s vaunted program. “This is really a love and a passion for me. I love coaching, I love being with young women who are at this age in high school, seeing them push through adversity and seeing them triumph as well.”

Since the season isn’t even a month old, there is still plenty of work to be done for these Quakers. A schedule that regularly has them traveling all over the state – and out of state, too – will test Moorestown.

How will they rebound from defeat? Can they play their best lacrosse when it matters most, in the postseason?

No one can predict the future, but games like the one against Haddonfield cannot hurt to prepare for what’s to come.

“You want good, competitive games, especially in the beginning of the season, because that will only help you know what you need to work on for your ultimate goal,” said Hancox, who was hired before Christmas and is embedded into the community as the director for girls training for the South Jersey Select Lacrosse Club. “Take what you did well (against Haddonfield), take what we didn’t do well or that we need to work on, and work on it more in practice and then we’re a better team a month from now.”

Moorestown senior Janey Galski scored a team-high three goals in the Quakers thrilling, 8-7 overtime win at Haddonfield on April 13. (RYAN LAWRENCE, South Jersey Sports Weekly)

Moorestown’s players have referred to the program’s transition as “The New Era,” but perhaps there isn’t much new beyond the people they’re listening to at practice and in the huddles during timeouts. The high standard remains. The winning continues.

“I feel like it’s been a pretty smooth transition,” Lillie said. “Coach Hancox is probably the best coach we could have had, she’s been amazing so far.”

“We’re really comfortable with the coaches already,” said fellow senior Kayla Frank, who will play at Virginia Tech next year. “Sometimes it can take a little while with new coaches, but honestly it’s been pretty easy. I think we expected something different, but it’s been so much better than we thought.”

What were the expectations?

“We thought maybe she’d be a little tougher maybe,” Frank said with a shy smile, hoping she was out of the earshot of her new coach. “I wouldn’t say she’s a softee. But, I don’t know, we thought it’d be a little tougher. (But) she knows how to motivate me. I think she’s very good at pulling me to the side and getting in my head, telling me that I’m a good player. And that translates onto the field when she helps me out.”

Just as with Hancox’s high school coaching career at her old school, Moorestown’s season has basically just began. But the early results – including back-to-back, overtime wins over Haddonfield and fellow top-10 opponent Rumson-Fair Haven this week – are more than promising.

“I think that the roots of the Moorestown team are so deep that these girls aren’t not only coping with a transition of a coaching staff, but at the heart of the program is a really competitive group of girls who work hard and know what it takes to work hard and stay calm in these pressure situations,” Hancox said.

Moorestown’s Margaret Lawler in control with Haddonfield players in pursuit. (RYAN LAWRENCE, South Jersey Sports Weekly)
Moorestown seniors Kayla Frank and goalie Logan Lillie keep an eye trained on the ball. (RYAN LAWRENCE, South Jersey Sports Weekly)
Moorestown’s Janey Galski and Ashley Nutt celebrate a goal that upped the Quakers lead to 8-6 with just under eight minutes to play against Haddonfield. (RYAN LAWRENCE, South Jersey Sports Weekly)